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ORNETTE COLEMAN & PRIME TIME

Jazz Rock/Fusion • United States


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Ornette Coleman & Prime Time biography
Originated in 1976 by avant-garde jazz veteran Ornette Coleman, Prime Time was Coleman's vehicle by which he brought his progressive musical visions to the world of jazz-rock fusion. One of the few jazz-rock groups to ever feature a free contrapuntal approach to improvisation, Prime Time had as much in common with European composers of the Baroque period as anything else in the world of fusion. The band usually consisted of two guitars, two basses and two drummers, as well as Ornette on lead alto saxophone. Prime Time was a leader in the NYC based musical movement away from the boring 'fuzak' of the late 70s. Many members of Prime Time went on to further this new awakening in jazz-rock with their own groups including; Vernon Reid, Ronald Shannon Jackson and Jamaladeeen Tacuma.

Born in 1930, Coleman's first jazz recordings took place in the late 50s. His approach to improvisation, which eschewed traditional accompaniments for a freer group improvisation, had a huge impact on the early world of Progressive Rock, especially bands such as King Crimson, Henry Cow, Soft Machine and Gentle Giant.

The discography for this entry includes only albums by Prime Time, not the entire Ornette Coleman discography.

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ORNETTE COLEMAN & PRIME TIME discography


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ORNETTE COLEMAN & PRIME TIME top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.51 | 7 ratings
Dancing In Your Head ( as Ornette Coleman)
1976
3.67 | 3 ratings
Body Meta ( as Ornette Coleman)
1976
4.00 | 2 ratings
In All Languages
1987
3.00 | 4 ratings
Virgin Beauty
1988
3.91 | 3 ratings
Tone Dialing
1995
4.00 | 1 ratings
Of Human Feelings
2001

ORNETTE COLEMAN & PRIME TIME Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

0.00 | 0 ratings
Opening The Caravan Of Dreams
1986
0.00 | 0 ratings
Jazzbühne Berlin '88 Vol. 5
1990

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ORNETTE COLEMAN & PRIME TIME Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

ORNETTE COLEMAN & PRIME TIME Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Dancing In Your Head ( as Ornette Coleman) by COLEMAN & PRIME TIME, ORNETTE album cover Studio Album, 1976
3.51 | 7 ratings

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Dancing In Your Head ( as Ornette Coleman)
Ornette Coleman & Prime Time Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by Guldbamsen
Forum & Site Admin Group Site and Forum Admin

4 stars Taunting teasing bobbing music

The 50s and 60s gave birth to a lot of cool and progressive jazz approaches that most vividly continued to fan out in all kinds of differentiating colours, shapes and sizes. Ornette Coleman released one of his pivotal records called The Shape of Jazz to come way back in 1959, and in many ways you could say that he foresaw a lot of things that made the impending experimentalism of the following decades so dense, free and I guess to some folks - too long away from the original roots in melodious blues music.

Ornette threw the manual in the bin straight away - and continued to do so when this band arouse to its feet in 1976, where the music business along with its crowd had changed quite a bit since the late 50s. We are talking humongous steps here, and that still doesn't quite put into focus just how much had changed in terms of experimenting with the musical palette. Fusion, prog and the avant guarde had suddenly popped by - and as a result of this, we now heard a man like Lou Reed releasing Metal Machine Music, and David Bowie all of a sudden turned Krautrock and strangely musically absent- minded with some help from Brian Eno. Pop stars dishing out avant releases as well as the opposite happening with bands like Weather Report and Nucleus that by now had turned infinitely more laid back and smooth. Everything was upside down, ready to be tried out, discarded or frowned upon.

Then you may be thinking this release sounds like a James Brown album, seeing as the tables were turning on artists and everybody was trying out new things, and though entirely unlike James Brown in nature and moods, this album is funky and sweaty like a well trained Jean Claude Van-Damme of the fusion world. It feels earthy and funky in a highly insecure way. We're talking mirage-funk here people! Somehow this Ornette Coleman gem named Dancing in Your Head manages to come out of the pen like a crazed horse with all the confidence of a drunk exotic dancer wearing a great big furry gorilla brassiere. First and foremost, Dancing in Your Head is bouncy like no other album - and in a manner that doesn't exactly inspire shake dat booty a la The Commodores-dancing, but more like operating a unicycle on a fisher boat in heavy seas. Wuuuooooopppp here we go!!! Bizarre tightrope balancing to say the least...

Frantic and sharp guitar riffage was the first thing that struck me. Not because it is the most prominent facet in the music, but I have honestly never heard anything like it from these urban jazz territories. Then you've got the drumming, which is bizarrely off-kilter and sounds like huge gulps of tinder being dropped in a hamper from the 2. floor. Jumping up and down like a small but highly overweight puppy, it struggles to keep time, rhythm and focus, but always stays impeccably tight and cacophonous like a chu chu train with a serious cough. Gluing this spectacle together, and forming the last leg of the rhythm section is bassist Rudy MacDaniel who thankfully pulls, heaves and contorts those elastic bands like a regular pasta masseur from down-town Naples. It helps the music along and generates a purposeful, groovy and wobbly foundation for the sax to run amok over.

Then we've got the main ingredient of our meal, which not too surprisingly is the saxophone. If you've ever heard Zappa's The Gumbo Variations before, then imagine this track being flung into a bonfire with radioactive mercury, silver bananas and a hefty dosage of nectarines and smack. This is New York right here! The playful and almost taunting wails of the sax are like a nine year old yelling: NAAHH NA NAH NAAAHH NAAHH!!! I feel reduced to a teasing toddler with a serious grin on my face, whenever I put this album on. It's like magic.

And no matter how much music that's been made in the decades following this album - music that sounds terrifyingly close to the one offered up here on Dancing in Your Head, - just remember that this was and still is the real deal! Nothing sounded like it back then, and while I struggle to find the appropriate words to give the album a fair parting gift in the form of a well described musical image, I fail to do just that, and I think it's mainly to do with this record's unique, rootless and innovative feel. The reason why I enjoy it so much, is because of all its contradictions. It is, above all, this album's opposite sides that together generate a powerful and most enjoyable ride, which was sonically unparalleled for a very long time. Had this album been just a tiny bit longer, I'd have given it the full monty, but as it is: 4.5 stars.

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 Tone Dialing by COLEMAN & PRIME TIME, ORNETTE album cover Studio Album, 1995
3.91 | 3 ratings

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Tone Dialing
Ornette Coleman & Prime Time Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by js (Easy Money)
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin

4 stars 1995 was a big year for jazz music, but very little of it was played by jazz musicians. The mid- 90s was all about the world of turntablism colliding with late 60s soul jazz for an explosion of acid jazz and trip-hop creativity. When Ornette's first recording in seven years arrived at the peak of this nu-jazz phenomena, I suspected it was a well timed attempt to cash in on new trends, but at the same time I was also looking forward to hearing Ornette's take on these new genres. Needless to say, Ornette is not one who will just 'cash-in'. Although there is definitely some trip-hop flavor here, this album is also one of Coleman's most diverse creations, touching on the aforementioned hip-hop jazz, as well as dense avant- garde cacophony, laid back world beat grooves, interpretations of Baroque masterpieces and plenty of Ornette's unique contrapuntal funk.

Although most of Coleman's albums will usually hit a style and sort of hold it, this one is all over the map. In fact many of these songs don't sound like Ornette at all. The presence of keyboards further marks this album as an odd one in the Coleman discography. The use of string synthesizers and synth-choir vocals in the middle of dense thickets of interweaving lines in the funk/jazz tunes almost sounds comical or satirical. I bet the Ornette purists didn't care for it, but I think it's great he's always trying new things.

Album opener Street Blues delivers the expected mid 90s trip-hop right off the bat and follows that cut with some artsy NYC rap delivered by MC Lyte on Search for Life. None of this hip-hop is formulaic though as Ornette and his son Denardo claim this genre for themselves with Prime Time's usual dense mix of contrapuntal lines. Even Lyte's voice doubles up on itself as her lines collide with each other much like Ornette and his ensemble's harmolodics.

After these two cuts the idea of this being the Ornette trendy trip-hop album of 95 is cast aside as the band heads into laid back and slightly bizarre Carribean grooves on Guadalupe, and avant-garde sound textures on Miguel's Fortune. One of the most interesting cuts on the album is Bach's Prelude, which opens with a direct reading of one of Bach's better known preludes on guitar before Prime Time takes on the tune with their own brand of almost humorous contrapuntal effects. The result is both sentimental and goofy irreverence at the same time. I think J.S. would be very pleased to hear his contrapuntal technique taken further by Ornette's as the band pushes the harmonic modulations of this piece to the breaking point. Another high point on this album is Badal Roy on tablas, a perfect addition to the Prime Time sound.

This album is possibly Ornette's best in the modern age, each song stands as a very unique composition and much care is given to production and arrangement. The staggering complexity and thoroughness of much of this album actually gets a little fatiguing to me and sometimes I find my attention span wandering before the album is finished. Maybe this album is a little too long when you consider how dense much of the music is.

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 Virgin Beauty by COLEMAN & PRIME TIME, ORNETTE album cover Studio Album, 1988
3.00 | 4 ratings

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Virgin Beauty
Ornette Coleman & Prime Time Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by js (Easy Money)
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin

3 stars After making a comeback to the world of recording in 1987 with In All Languages, Ornette and Prime Time return a year later with this substantially different recording, Virgin Beauty. Fortunately on Beauty Ornette and his producer son Denardo quit trying to sound so 'modern' and dispose of the huge gated snare sound and the sampled 'hits' that made Languages a bit clumsy. The result is a return to a more natural and relaxed sound that fits Ornette's playing much better than all that forced trendiness.

The contrapuntal effect of all the intersecting improvised melodic lines are in full effect here. Ornette's Prime Time ensemble is truly incredible as guitarists Ben Nix, Charlie Ellerbe and part-time guest Jerry Garcia constantly intertwine with Jaco influenced bassists Albert MacDowell and Chris Walker creating a constantly evolving twisted mix of melodies. One player will break through the mix only to disappear as another player comes to the fore-front. The beats on here are more simple and direct than earlier Prime Time albums and sometimes even reveal Ornette's rural roots with an almost country two beat feel. Other songs have a slight hip-hop shuffle swing that really fit's the swing based phrasing used by most of the players creating an almost goofy chaotic loping feel to the songs. Overall this is a very warm relaxed album with an occasional sly sense of humor and plenty of virtuostic instrumental ensemble interactions.

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 Dancing In Your Head ( as Ornette Coleman) by COLEMAN & PRIME TIME, ORNETTE album cover Studio Album, 1976
3.51 | 7 ratings

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Dancing In Your Head ( as Ornette Coleman)
Ornette Coleman & Prime Time Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by js (Easy Money)
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin

3 stars In 1976 the world of jazz rock fusion was losing all of it's spark. Most of the great innovators of the early 70s were settling into mellow 'fuzak' grooves and watching the cash roll in. Miles had retired and taken his bizarre psychedelic Stockhausen/Hendrix/Sly Stone rock band with him. Billy Cobham was still making some noise, but soon he would succumb to the doldrums too. Meanwhile, in the world of rock, complacency was about to get a swift kick in the ass as The New York Dolls and The Ramones were about to take rock back to it's raw rockin roots. It's important that these two bands developed their shtick in NYC, because unlike London and the West Coast, punk rock in NYC was not as insular and it's influence spilled out onto almost every other NYC bred genre.

Did the emergence of punk rock help guide Ornette Coleman's decision to upset the boring apple cart of smooth dinner jazz, I'm not sure, but it did help set the stage in New York where artsy folks all wanted some of that raw punky ascetic in their music and other arts as well. Some even labeled Ornette's new ensemble with terms like 'punk-jazz' and 'punk- funk', but I don't recall ever hearing Coleman use any of those terms. All the same, this album was a total revolution in the world of jazz rock, and it inspired countless post-punk jazz and jazz-leaning artists to play in a more aggressive, gritty street-wise style. Some of the artists that would follow in the huge wake of this album include, Bill Laswell, Vernon Reid, Ronald Shannon Jackson, Curlew, Fred Frith's Massacre, John Zorn, Henry Threadgill, James White and Lester Bowie's Defunkt.

It is really hard to describe the music on here, Ornette's earlier avant-jazz and Captain Beefheart's Trout Mask masterpiece are about the only references I can come up with. Ronald Shannon Jackson's drumming on this album is very bizarre and does seem to carry a lot of influence from Beefheart's John French in that both are able to duplicate the sound of two drummers colliding with each other by themselves. The snarly intertwining guitars of Bern Nix and Charlie Ellerbee are fascinating and I wish Ornette would have backed off occasionally and given these guys more room to themselves.

Despite coming out of the urban New York scene, like much of Ornette's music, this album has a very rough unpolished and totally natural rural sound and feel to it. This music would sound fine being played on a porch in Mississippi with cigar box guitars and oatmeal box drums. I'm not sure how this album translates in today's music world, but when it came out in 1976, there was nothing else like it.

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 In All Languages by COLEMAN & PRIME TIME, ORNETTE album cover Studio Album, 1987
4.00 | 2 ratings

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In All Languages
Ornette Coleman & Prime Time Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by js (Easy Money)
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin

4 stars After making a bold splash by switching from jazz to jazz-rock in the late 70s, Ornette Coleman did not record again with his progressive fusion ensemble, Prime Time, until 1987. So how does Ornette's unique musical vision hold up under the hard plastic glare of the 80s, let's just say the results are mixed. First of all it should be pointed out that this album is actually two records in one. The first record involves new recordings of Coleman's classic avant-jazz quartet; and the second, his unique fusion group Prime Time.

The Prime Time record covers a couple of different styles including rock driven free-jazz, 80s styled looped beats with occasional sampled 'hits', as well as some classic 'Ornette-jazz' that is unsuccessfully 'updated' and hence encumbered and harnessed to overly loud 80s styled gated snare beats. On the other hand, there are also some very successful attempts at weird avant world beat in the mix too. Overall the music is very creative and well composed. Coleman has a stellar cast of musicians on hand and the way they contrapuntally snake around each other and play the interconnecting lines that are expected in Coleman's arrangements is nothing short of genius. The big question though is how well do the attempts to sound contemporary jive with Coleman's unshakable timeless music.

Sometimes the mix of 'modern' (80s) sounds with Ornette's organic ascetic can work well as in Space Church (Continuous Service) where sampled orchestra passages, frantic jazz funk bass, free-rhythm drums and Ornette's plaintive melody combine to make a style never to be heard again. Overall though, the many cuts on these two sides work best when the music is unhampered by overly heavy drums or early sampling technology.

The record featuring Ornette's classic quartet is pure genius. It is interesting to hear this quartet with more modern recording technology, but personally I prefer the sound they had in the 60s. This was a real interesting double album for 1987, with one record that looked back at greatness, and another that looked forward to possibilities.

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